A friend of mine once told me “if the service is free, then you’re the service” – and with Facebook it doesn’t get much simpler than that.
So when it comes to Facebook’s Internet.org initiative, it wasn’t much of a surprise for me to hear that its traffic is to be unencrypted, and the data collected to be used and shared to third parties.
First reported by Medianama, critics are describing the Internet.org platform as a “privacy nightmare”, with users being tracked on partner sites.
The Internet.org initiative is a Facebook project, aimed at bringing basic Internet services for free to users in developing countries.
For the project, Facebook is in cooperation with some major telecoms companies, and has recently turned it into an open platform to counter the net-neutrality issues it raised. With Facebook choosing which sites it will offer for free, critics say it is effectively killing the net neutrality princpile.
But now, questions of security are being asked, as well.
The problem lies in the way telecoms recognise “free” services. As Medianama says, free services cannot be accessed over the secure HTTPS protocol, but instead have to use the unsecure, unencrypted HTTP.
This means unencrypted traffic will pass through Facebook-controlled servers.
The terms and conditions that users and developers must agree to also allow the company to analyse usage and even share that information with mobile operators.
As The Verge says, banking, private messaging and other applications that depend on encryption should stay away from Internet.org.